New Report Highlights Women's Vulnerability in Natural Disasters
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – The Global Fund for Women today released its new report, Caught in the Storm: The Impact of Natural Disasters on Women. Throughout the last year, a series of natural disasters have left the world reeling. These disasters occurred in vastly different places—from the tsunami in Asia to Hurricane Stan in Guatemala to the massive earthquake in Kashmir and Hurricane Katrina in the United States. Yet, they share one factor in common: during and afterwards, women and children suffered most.
The Global Fund's report demonstrates how women are disproportionately at risk during and after natural disasters and includes recommendations for relief groups, non-governmental organizations and government agencies to implement before, during and after crises.
"We are deeply inspired by the courage of women's organizations to persevere in the face of disasters, such as hurricanes and earthquakes," said Kavita N. Ramdas, President and CEO of the Global Fund for Women. "We see them take the lead in their communities to provide shelter, alleviate hunger, procure medicine, and demand participation in decisions about rebuilding their lives and livelihoods."
The best estimates reveal that approximately three times as many women as men died in last year's tsunami, and according to early reports from Pakistan, more women than men were killed in the October 2005 earthquake. In the midst of chaos and social breakdown that accompany natural disasters, the incidence of rape and domestic violence against women increases dramatically. Furthermore, disaster relief efforts often fail to address women's health needs and exclude women from receiving adequate assistance from governments.
Based on what we have learned from local women's groups responding to disasters, the Global Fund recommends the following:
Women should be included in pre- and post-disaster planning: national and international agencies must consult with the affected communities, and emergency plans must address children's needs and include the input of local women leaders and organizations;
Relief agencies must ensure women's physical safety post-crisis, creating safe spaces for families in order to prevent violence, such as rape;
Agencies must make special efforts to address the specific health needs of women in disaster situations including: providing suitable bathrooms, undergarments, sanitary supplies, prenatal and maternity care, and psychological counseling;
Relief efforts must include long-term income-generating projects and jobs for women, equal aid distribution, temporary housing and access to education.
"Although the tragedy and upheaval of natural disasters leave behind a painful legacy, the weeks and months when villages, cities, regions and nations seek to rebound from disaster hold the unique promise of social and structural change that can improve women's lives for the long-term," said Lin Chew, co-author of the report and Activist in Residence at the Global Fund for Women. "If we seize the opportunity to listen to women leaders as communities rebuild, we can protect and advance the rights of women well into the future."
Information in the report comes from firsthand accounts gathered by women in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Guatemala, Pakistan and the U.S. who conducted fact-finding visits to devastated areas, including displaced persons camps. Through working with 31 women's organizations in nine countries that have endured natural disasters, the Global Fund has learned how traditional relief efforts fail women, the suffering that results, and how this failure can be reversed.
Click here for a copy of the full report or call Leanne Grossman or Sande Smith at 415.202.7640.
About the Global Fund for Women
The Global Fund for Women is the largest foundation in the world that focuses exclusively on advancing women's rights internationally. Grants made by the Global Fund expand the choices available to women and girls, securing their efforts to strengthen economic independence, increase access to education and prevent violence. Since 1987, the Global Fund has awarded over $44 million to seed, strengthen and link nearly 3,000 groups in 162 countries. More information is available in six languages at www.globalfundforwomen.org.